The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is a professing atheistic group that is requesting the Air National Guard end the practice of prayers at official ceremonies and other base events as a result of a complaint by a guardsman who contacted them.
"A concerned guardsman informed FFRF that ceremonies at the Pease Air National Guard Base regularly have chaplains delivering invocations. These include readings from the bible and references to a Christian god. Attendance at these ceremonies is mandatory for all guardsmen," notes a statement from FFRF.
The FFRF and the guardsman appear to be oblivious that the Constitution does not guarantee them the right not to be offended. If a service member attends an official military ceremony or base event, it would be highly incumbent upon him or her to expect an invocation or reference to a religious sentiment. This does not contravene the Establishment Clause on the First Amendment since military ceremonies and base events are historical, interfaith, and are not publicized as distinctively Christian events.
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The FFRF request to end prayers implies that it is constitutional malfeasance to hear military chaplains express their inviolable liberties, which is unwarranted, since service members are not under compulsion or coerced to bow their heads to pray; it is voluntary. If the disgruntled guardsman felt that his constitutional liberties would be violated for attending an event that offers voluntary prayers he is not mandated to participate in, the first step should not have been to contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but to seek accommodation, which can be found in the Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17 (4b.):
"In accordance with section 533(a)(1) of Public Law 112-239 (Reference (d)), as amended, unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) of Service members in accordance with the policies and procedures in this instruction. This does not preclude disciplinary or administrative action for conduct by a Service member requesting religious accommodation that is proscribed by Chapter 47 of Title 10, United States Code (the Uniform Code of Military Justice), including actions and speech that threaten good order and discipline."
The Wisconsin-based FFRF has also opined that prayers offered by military chaplains at ceremonies and base events "create hostile work environments for minority religious and nonreligious guardsmen" and are "illegal under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." Both claims are fallacious. The First Amendment prohibits the government from making "any law respecting" an establishment of religion, which refers to establishment. A chaplain's right to publicly exercise his sincerely held beliefs do not nullify or contravene the Establishment Clause in any way.
When the FFRF asserted that prayers create a hostile work environment, they appear to be creating a "straw-man" argument, since they do not explicitly articulate a rational argument or evidence on why a historic and interfaith prayer would create a pejorative environment. The FFRF assertions are able to prove one thing – the organization does not like God!
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A complaint by the FFRF that audaciously requests the Air National Guard end the practice of including prayers at official ceremonies and other base events should cause observers to ponder the group's motives, since its appellation of being a "freedom from religion foundation" is a construct that is not found anywhere in the Constitution. The FFRF's pithy request is not an attempt to support and defend the Constitution, it is an attempt to eviscerate all sentiments of Christianity simply because they do not like it.
No matter how hard the FFRF tries to remove references to the Lord or feels that it is presumptuous to ask everyone to join in a Christian ceremony, they cannot escape. The FFRF cannot efface themselves from His effectual beauty that surrounds them (Psalm 19:1), or His law that is indelibly engraved in their hearts (Romans 2:15), or nullify the oath every service member is required to take, which requires them to bear "true faith" and allegiance and to "support and defend the Constitution" – the supreme law of the U.S., which closes with these words:
"Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth. ..."
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military, or religious organization. Sonny Hernandez wrote this article as a civilian on his own time on an issue of public interest.